Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Cassette Review: Grimény "Die große Enttäuschung" (Already Dead Tapes and Records)

Throughout my time writing about music I've heard a lot of things from a lot of different people and it is somewhat often that I hear people say they don't like instrumental music because they need those vocals, those words to sing along with to make the music feel truly complete.    I don't know why I thought about this during this cassette, but I had that idea in my head of people listening to music- such as this cassette- and kind of waiting for those vocals to kick in at some point.   But if you're in that mindset when it comes to music then you are never truly going to appreciate it as you'll always feel as if you're waiting for something more.

On the subject of this being instrumental, you have to understand that though this music lacks vocals (and I use the terms "lacks" rather loosely) it is still more complex, more layered than a lot of other artists out there making music with vocals.    I'm not normally one to judge in the sense of saying "This needs vocals!" so I shouldn't say the reverse of that either, but the truth is I really feel like this already has enough going on that it simply does not need vocals and adding them might over-complicate things (Though I'm sure the talented artists who created this could prove me wrong)

There are a few audio clips in here, which I don't mind because it just seems to add to that overall "A Clockwork Orange" / end of the world vibe that this music gives me.   I love music that makes you feel something and this just feels like a soundtrack to that sort of setting but not even as a movie, but as real life (like as how you might listen to something fast paced and electronic while running in your fancy sneakers)

The thought process behind listening to instrumental music usually comes with "Well, if there were vocals who would it sound like" and this just doesn't fit into that stereotype for me.   I can't think of any band really that this sounds like other than that it gives me the same sort of vibes as I got some years ago when I first heard We Were Promised Jetpacks.

As heavy as this can get- as heavy as metal- it can get just as soft and quiet (which reminds me of something like The Beatles on some weird level) and the amazing part is that it can do it all within the same song.    While there is a sad, somber feel to the music mostly overall it has this ringing to it as well.  It actually really reminds me of something great from the 1990's where it does that thing with the guitar where one note is played (or one chord) and then it sort of echoes like ripples on a pond only with Grimény it makes it feel more like the echoes are directly hitting your soul.

[$5 // Edition of 100 //]

Cassette Review: Iain Shaw & David Shrigley "Listening to Slayer" (Already Dead Tapes and Records)

I will admit right away that I spent too long looking for the link on Bandcamp for this one because I was convinced it was actually called "Listening to Slayer" in the sense that was the artist name.   So I actually had to use the catalog number to the point where I was arguing with the website because the artist names didn't match up and then I realized it was actually the title not the artist name which contains Slayer.

Over the course of these six songs, the feeling is generally acoustic.   Most of the songs have this Simon & Garfunkel or something more modern feel to them, where it balances on that line between folk and bedroom music.    It's softer and lighter, even though the first song is about listening to Slayer and so the fact that this isn't heavier is part of the appeal.

At the end of Side A you'll hear a fuzzy rock number called "Hey You" that's along the lines of The Replacements, Pavement, Damn Personals, Soul Asylum-- that sort of rock genre-- and the lyrics in it are about poetry and at one point he asks someone if they're color blind because they don't like his paintings and, yeah, let's just say that I can relate to this song perhaps a little bit too much.

Side B opens with spoken word and it's actually kind of fun because he says that whatever you do you should do it well and I've always believed that.   He does mention calling the police and it shows my mind is on the right page because it's kind of like, if you're going to be a serial killer you might as well be the best serial killer, right?   I might have taken those words a bit too far so don't call the authorities on me.

As much as I enjoy the music on this- and I do- I feel like this is a lyrical cassette in the sense that you wouldn't listen to this one for the music as much as you would for the words.   And, again, it's not a reflection on the music in any way because the music is wonderful, but it is a nice change of pace from what is normally presented in society as music because people don't tend to put as much focus on lyrics as I think they should any more and it's a shame.

Cassette Review: Jim Shorts "Eternal" (Trash Dog Records)

The initial thoughts that I get from Jim Shorts when first pressing play are that of a distorted weirdo rock band that I most likely first began listening to back in the 1990's.   Whether the vocals have this higher pitched sound to them or not, I hear elements of Dynamite Hack, Wheatus and Weezer all coming out within the first song (and then a little less in the following songs).    It gets pretty heavy with the fuzz and even the tone as it can take on this TMBG/Death Cab sort of feel of intensity.

Though the songs could also be described as dreamy in their nature, there is this catchy, pop rock quality to them as well.    It might not be radio catchy because it might be a challenge to sing along the first time you hear it and, well, you might not even choose to sing along to this at any point, but I can almost bet you will nod your head and tap your foot along to the beat.

Trash Dog Records sent this one to me and so I was looking for it on their Bandcamp page but could not find it.   This brought me to the specific page for Jim Shorts which, I probably should have guessed earlier, happens to be a solo artist.    So I do feel the need to point that out because I'm always rather impressed when I hear what sounds to me like bands and find out it is one person behind all of the music (Because I am obviously less impressed by thoughts of "Wow, it took six people to make this sound this bad?")

The lyrics are somewhat interesting- especially on songs like "Perversion 3.0", which is one of my overall favorite songs on this cassette- and at one point he does sing a lot about talking to himself.   I'm actually really into talking to myself, but yeah, I know there are people who just take it way too far and it just reminds me of that old joke of the guy walking down the street talking to himself and it's like, what if he's talking to God and everyone just thinks he's crazy.

As I stare at this Bandcamp page and hear what certainly feels like the end of the cassette, I notice that the last four songs are all available through the digital but not the cassette so I'm kind of waiting for songs which will never come.   Still, after listening to this one a few too many times I wouldn't be opposed to paying the five dollars for the digital download and then just going ahead and bootlegging my own cassette version with the last four tracks added in.   I really just see that as a reflection of how much I like this cassette- and now Jim Shorts, I am a fan- and if you don't have the original cassette yourself, you know, don't bootleg it-- buy it.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Digital Music Review: Parlor Walls "Opposites" (Northern Spy Records)

If I began writing this review by saying something like "Parlor Walls is a duo from Brooklyn that plays experimental, out-of-the-box type of music" you'd probably think that the same statement could be applied to any number of artists and, well, that perhaps you weren't reading a review on this site either.    The fact of the matter is, for all of the times I've heard that statement I've never felt it to be more true-- as if everyone else has said it up until now as just a formality but this time it's really real.

Horns blow through at rapid speed and seemingly at random intervals while bass synth can be stretched out and the vocals just somehow fall into line with the music while at the same time manage to do their own thing.    The delivery of both the vocals and music together can come across like daggers-- the way I'd read it would be similar to putting a period after every word.    If you're not completely in love with "Opposites" after the first song I don't know what to tell you, but as you listen to all the songs you will only fall more deeply in love.

To describe the music of Parlor Walls is difficult because they combine various sounds but don't sound like any existing artist, which is why I enjoy them so much.   A bit of that experimental side of someone such as Yoko Ono mixed with that punk energy of a name such as Xiu Xiu and yet, still, not quite the full spectrum of what is happening here.   In a "jazz" sense there is this bit of Sweep the Leg Johnny thrown in for good measure.  (And, on a side note, has there ever been an artist like Sweep the Leg Johnny since them?)

The name Parlor Walls seemed familiar to me before I listened to this ablum but I wasn't sure why-- I hadn't reviewed their music before.   This is, however, their first full length and there are two equally excellent EPs available on their Bandcamp (One at Free Download, one at Name Your Price), so I definitely would recommend diving into those as well, after listening to "Opposites".    Basically any song Parlor Walls wants to release at this point I'm going to be listening to and if they don't make it to CT soon enough I'll be heading into NYC to see them as well.     This whole experience is just that encapsulating.

[$9.99 Download // $18.99 on Vinyl //

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Cassette Review ::: Wheelchair Sports Camp "No Big Deal" (self-released)

One of the things I like the most about hip hop is that the community behind it has a sense of family.   Back when Sage Francis released "A Healthy Distrust" I was on the Epitaph mailing list and got an advance copy of the CD.   If that was my only reason for ever contacting Epitaph it was well worth it.   From falling in love with Sage Francis I was introduced to other artists such as B. Dolan and Wheelchair Sports Camp.    It becomes difficult for me to put into words why you should be listening to WSC when a Sage Francis reccomendation should be reason enough.

I've listened to the songs of Wheelchair Sports Camp through various outlets online and I also follow their accounts on social media.   (Cheap plug)   I saw the post come up on their Facebook page about this cassette and thought to myself, well, I've been listening to them enough otherwise for free, it's time to put some cash down and get this cassette.  (Other artists who see me blowing up their Spotify/Soundcloud/YouTube/Bandcamp/etc take note)

If you've read anything I've ever written about rap music before you likely know I listened to cassettes in the 1980's and 1990's and a lot of them (Thanks, Columbia House!) are from the rap genre as well.   So listening to WSC is also a lot of fun for me because even though something to that effect is stated at one point (a '90's rap kid) I can hear it in the songs, specifically something like "Scooter Pack" has that acoustic guitar loop vibe and it makes me think of "Scenario", which if you don't know that song then I'm already beyond being able to help you.

Though I'm not a rapper myself, I like to write and I realized recently that the most difficult part of creating a song is coming up with that hook.   If you can create that hook- those few rhyming lines to always come back to- then the rest just falls into place because you just kind of rhyme a lot of other thoughts related to your hook and I can write for days so I just have to re-work it a bit to rhyme.   Anyway, yes, writing hooks is hard.   But trying to rap is harder.   You have to have that flow and timing which I, vocally, do not possess.    WSC makes it look easy though and for all the years I've been listening to them I've never been a doubter of their collected talent.

If you're into compact discs that's cool, but I really am a fan of the idea that I can take my cassettes from 2Pac, Dr. Dre, all these weird soundtracks I have for some reason (Remember the movie "Who's the Man?" I don't but I have the soundtrack.  And "Trespass" too) and put them with this, combining my musical past and present.     I think it's a fitting sign that the way we listen to music might change over time but quality music will never go out of style.

[$7 // 4 remaining as I type this //]

Thursday, February 2, 2017

[Gypsy Radio] January 2017 Top 10

Below are the Top 10 Songs of January 2017 as found on SoundCloud.   Please note these are not in any particular order.

(1) Richard Edwards "Disappeared Planets"

This guy has been through some shit.   And so have I.   This album is going to be great and I am looking forward to it in a way which words cannot describe.   This is the most fitting way to start this or any set of songs really.

Listen Here:

(2) Tatiana Hazel "Losing My Mind"

A lighter pop that touches on a subject which seems to become a theme this month.   You should know what the fuck is up.

(3) Poté "Egosurf (For All It's Worth)"

          A powerful electronic orchestra/carousel ride.

Listen Here:

(4) ASHA "Drowning"

Driving, hypnotic and a song which will easily get stuck in your head.

Listen Here:

(5) Orchestra Baobab "Foulo"

Something a little different that somehow fits into this set of songs for this month but at the same time stands out.   I really like it.

Listen Here:

(6) Princess Cyberspace "Blocked/Unblocked"

I didn't know "cyberpop" was a thing but it is an accurate way to describe this song, which despite the autotune and overly-catchy style really makes me think of something like Ke$ha meets Hellogoodbye.    And yes, the lyrics also hit home.

Listen Here:

(7) Alexis Nicole "EVERYDAY

So powerful.    The songs in this set from January are about not just losing your mind but loss in general and lyrically this is right up there with them.    The soulful way in which it is delivered makes it that much better.  

(8) NITERUNNER "Out Of Your Hands"

That synthpop of the '80's that I love so much.   Also a great song to listen to while driving I would imagine.    

(9) Hood Celebrityy "The Takeover (Bando Freestyle)"

A chill rap song that has police sirens to freak out your friends while driving.

(10) Linger "Avoid"

Given the nature of the lyrics for this month and the way the songs sound overall there seemed no more fitting of a song to end out this set.  

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Cassette Review: Bonehead "Finally Punk" (Crass Lips Records)

[$5 //]

When I think of a title such as "Finally Punk" I like to wonder what took so long but then I remember I didn't actually listen to punk rock until high school myself, so it's not like it's something that everyone- or even the majority of people- are born into in that sense.   I also always thought it was kind of funny how there were always these hardcore guys who would get too old and lose their voices so they'd play in emo bands because that just seemed to be where they went after they could no longer hardcore.    I guess it's just one of those natural progressions of music types of things and I enjoy thinking about all of that.

There are a number of ways to describe the music of Bonehead but at its core, yes, I would agree that the title is correct and this has those punk rock roots at the base of it all.   From this dreamy sound like Concrete Blonde to something louder that could even be found on the "10 Things I Hate About You" soundtrack, this one goes from distorted to instrumental but maintains what I feel it is to be punk.

On perhaps one song you could say that it has the sound of another artist but overall, when considering each of the songs on this cassette, there is no other artist who has quite put together a collection such as this before.   It's just as diverse as it is similar, the various elements keeping each song from sounding the same while still bringing them all back to their punk rock grounding.    In some ways it even reminds me of something from that Mr. T Experience era of Lookout! Records.

Typically it would seem inevitable to state that if you are a fan of punk music then you will enjoy this, but I do feel like this one goes above and beyond punk music somehow.   I feel like people who enjoy good music will listen to this and get it.   You don't have to like punk rock, but this could be that one cassette where you go, "Yeah, I don't listen to a lot of punk, but I listen to this".